Celebrating my daughter’s first birthday with an English high tea on the first day of a nine day trip to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park ( a desert) has to go down as a memorable event in our family’s life.
Combined with the first rain storm of the season which promised much in terms of the lightning and wind but that sadly delivered relatively less rain than expected was also awesome.
This was our first opportunity to visit this park and I am kicking myself that I had not been sooner. I will certainly return.
September proved to be a good choice for the park both for photography and weather. We avoided the cold days of winter which go down to -12C at times as well as the extreme heat of summer.
Though we had a few days heading towards the 40’s most days were windy and dry with the occasional dust devil passing through the land rover. This was not great for camera and lens which need regularly clean up both externally and on sensor and lens glass.
As to the wildlife I was amazed at the amount of birdlife particularly birds of prey. Pale chanting goshawk, ovambo sparrow hawk, red necked, lanner and pygmy falcons, tawny eagles, booted eagle to my surprise!, martial, black chested and brown snake eagles, secretary birds and kori bustards in abundance. Whitebacked vultures, verreaux’s, spotted, white faced and scops owls. I saw , my first purple roller and swallow tailed bee-eaters as well as a myriad of smaller birds, many of which I had not seen before such as red headed finch and Kalahari scrub robins and fiscal shrike (western version).
As to the wildlife, cats proved elusive, particularly lions which I expected to see more of. However the best sighting was of three Cheetah that headed out of the Nossob river towards my car, An adult female with two sub-adult inquisitive cubs. Sadly I missed the springbok kill that occurred an hour later! Such is the disappointment of a wildlife photographer
As one of my friends eloquently put it “everything is either f…ing or fighting at this time (spring)”. This proved to be true with gemsbok, giraffe, springbok, ground squirrels and wildebeest battling and jousting for position.
Other highlights were a lanner falcon with sand grouse kill and a leopard sighted at some distance and a small spotted genet at the Nossob hide, brown hyena and spotted hyena, suricate, cape cobra and black backed Jackals (aplenty)
Sadly I missed out on a wonderful leopard sighting at Kwanganaus waterhole, a resident that regularly inhabits a tree next to the waterhole. My neighbors saw it the following day.
I used my full range of lenses predominantly my Minolta 300mm f4 with a 1.4 x converter as well as the 50mm , 24mm and 35mm and 85mm depending on mood and time of day. After 10am the light was very bright for photography and so switched predominantly to landscape panoramic shots (stitching of multiple images using a polarizer to bring out richer colors.)
The trip form Johannesburg was round trip of 3500 kilometers. My tripod mount that fits onto the door of the landy with my newly acquired manfrotto hydrostatic tripod head was amazing except when the dust or the cold early mornings prevented me from closing the car window .
The big question Kruger or Kgalagadi? ..Well they are so different and both have a place in my heart. For young kids (as per mine), I believe Kruger offers more variety but if you want to see few vehicles then Kgalagadi has my bet. On day two I saw my first car after 4 hours of driving!! Go there before the secret breaks out! I would be more than willing to host and run a regular photographic tour to the park if anyone is interested. My good friend Michael Spencer Wilson is an experienced 4×4 guide and can handle the logistics of such a trip. Give me a call and I will put you in contact with him. All camping and catering could be provided for and my tricked out landy is the perfect platform for photography…and those cold beers from the engel fridge are to die for in the midday heat of the desert. Cheers for now.